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Dec 15

Making Christmas Cheer with Candy and Candles

“At Christmas, play and make good cheer, For Christmas comes but once a year.”
–Thomas Tusser, English writer (1524-1580)

Since the Christmas movie “Elf” was first released in 2003, I have watched it over and over and never tire of it.

One of the things that make it so endearing is the way the main character Buddy-the-Elf joyfully embodies Thomas Tusser’s philosophy of making good cheer at Christmastime.

Nobody does that better than Buddy.

When Buddy said, “First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie-dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle,” I traveled back in time to carefree, fun-filled childhood Christmas traditions of my own.

Buddy’s delight in Christmas fun made me recall how excited I used to feel as a child about Christmas merriment.

We didn’t exactly eat a whole roll of cookie dough or snuggle much, but we did eat a lot of homemade Christmas candy and enjoyed Saturday morning craft time, creating ice candles (molded in milk cartons) to give as gifts.

My mother, who was not particularly artistic or “crafty”, became that way at Christmastime. She loved making a variety of Christmas candies for gifts or entertaining, Heavenly Divinity was one of her specialties. She delighted in Saturday morning candle-making as well. It took me awhile to remember exactly how she made those candles and to find her luscious Divinity recipe, but I did.

I will gladly share both with you now in this column with the hope that they bring you a fun-filled merry Saturday of craft-and-candy making that would make Buddy so happy he would be making snow angels for two hours.

Heavenly Divinity
4 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites at room temperature
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, syrup, and salt and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture boils. Continue cooking until it forms a soft ball. Drop a small ball in cold water to test. Continue cooking while beating egg whites, until mixture reaches the light crack stage when a little is dropped in cold water to test. Pour mixture over egg whites, beating all the while. Continue beating until candy begins to hold its shape. Stir in vanilla and nuts. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper. Makes 50-60 pieces. This candy is difficult to handle and you must work quickly and not wait too long to spoon it onto the waxed paper. It can get too firm and hard and then you can’t spoon it

Milk Carton Christmas Candles
Items needed: milk carton, candle wax, a big pot, an old coffee can, candy thermometer, ice, candle wicks or taper candle, colored crayons.

Step 1 – Break candle wax into big pieces and put in empty coffee can. Fill cooking pot halfway with water and put coffee can with wax inside the water. Heat until wax melts. Use candy thermometer to be sure water reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2 — Break crayons and add pieces to hot wax. Let them melt completely.
Step 3 – Cut off top of milk carton. Place a taper in the center of the milk carton or poke a hole in bottom of carton and thread a wick through hole.
Step 4 – Fill milk carton with ice. The smaller the chunks of ice the more intricate the pattern will be. Big pieces of ice will not work well.
Step 5 – Pour hot wax over the ice very, very slowly until you fill the milk carton. If you use a wick rather than taper, hold it carefully while pouring around it. Let carton sit until wax dries. Once you are sure it is dry, peel the carton from the wax inside.
Step 6 – Ice candle must harden for at least 24 hours.